The federal war on drugs was launched almost 40 years ago by President Nixon, and by almost any standard, the answer to all of those questions is a resounding no. This war has been an abject failure.
Drug cartels are flourishing and crime is rampant as federal and state governments spend some $50 billion a year of our money on the drug war. There were more than 1.6 million drug arrests in 2009, and almost 90% of pot-related arrests are just for possession of the drug. Marijuana, cocaine and heroin are more widely available, more widely used, more potent, and cheaper than they were when the drug war started. If that’s not a complete and total failure, I don’t know what is.
And before you say that it is leftists who oppose the drug war, and therefore the many conservatives who support it must be right...it is a trio of conservative giants...Bill Buckley, Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell....who have made perhaps the most compelling arguments for ending drug prohibition. Friedman, for one, estimated that the drug war results in an additional 10,000 homicides every year.
Lest we forget, we tried prohibition of alcohol, and it was a disaster of epic proportions. Prohibition created the same type of criminal underworld that has been spawned by this war on drugs, demonstrating again that the dangers of illegality far exceed the danger of the drugs themselves.
And no one can argue that alcohol is not by far the most dangerous drug. It has shattered millions of lives and ruined families. But making it illegal did not work.
And given that we know alcohol addiction is a disease and not a crime, why would that not also apply to drug addiction?
Criminalizing non-criminal activities is wrong, and even if it was right, the war on drugs has been a total failure, and it must be ended.